Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 125 Ma
Dong & Azuma, 1997
Archaeoceratops, meaning "ancient horned face", is a genus of basal neoceratopsian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous (Aptian stage) of north central China. It appears to have been bipedal and quite small (about 1 meter long) with a comparatively large head. Unlike many later ceratopsians it had no horns, possessing only a small bony frill projecting from the back of its head.
Discovery and species
Two specimens were found in the Middle Gray Unit of the Xinminbao Group, Gongpoquan Basin of the Mazong Shan area of Gansu Province, north central China. The type species, A. oshimai, was named by Dong Zhiming and Azuma in 1997. It is the first basal neoceratopsian discovered in this area.
The type specimen, IVPP V11114, consists of a partially complete skeleton including skull, caudal vertebrae, pelvis, and most of a hind pes (foot). The second specimen (paratype), IVPP V11115, consists of an incomplete skeleton with a relatively well preserved caudal series, a partial hind limb, and a completely preserved pes. It is slightly smaller than the holotype.
Archaeoceratops belonged to the Ceratopsia (the name is Greek for "horned face"), a group of herbivorous dinosaurs with parrot-like beaks which thrived in North America and Asia during the Cretaceous Period. In 1997 Dong and Azuma placed it in a new family, Archaeoceratopsidae.
Archaeoceratops, like all ceratopsians, was a herbivore. During the Cretaceous, flowering plants were "geographically limited on the landscape", and so it is likely that this dinosaur fed on the predominant plants of the era: ferns, cycads and conifers. It would have used its sharp beak to bite off the leaves or needles and chop them up to be swallowed.
- You, Hai-Lu; Tanque, Kyo; Dodson, Peter (2010). "A new species of Archaeoceratops (Dinosauria: Neoceratopsia) from the Early Cretaceous of the Mazongshan area, northwestern China". In Ryan, Michael J.; Chinnery-Allgeier, Brenda J.; and Eberth, David A. (editors.). New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 59–67. ISBN 978-0-253-35358-0.
- F. Tang, Z. -X. Luo, Z. -H. Zhou, H. -L. You, J. A. Georgi, Z. -L. Tang and X. -Z. Wang. (2001). "Biostratigraphy and palaeoenvironment of the dinosaur-bearing sediments in Lower Cretaceous of Mazongshan area, Gansu Province, China." Cretaceous Research, 22(1): 115-129. doi:10.1006/cres.2000.0242
- Dong, Z.; Azuma, Y. (1997). "On a primitive Neoceratopsian from the early Cretaceous of China". In Dong, Z. (ed). Sino-Japanese Silk Road dinosaur expedition. China Ocean press. p. pp. 68-89.
- Redescription of neoceratopsian dinosaur Archaeoceratops and early evolution of Neoceratopsia. You, H. and Dodson, P. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48 (2); 261-272 (2003).
- Archaeoceratops in the Dino Directory